Max Brooks’ World War Z is fiction for the Discovery Channel / NatGeo junkie, that special breed of people who regard Shark Week as a red-letter holiday. Masquerading as a collection of interviews from survivors of a global zombie apocalypse, the book succeeds in taking a ludicrous premise and making the reader take it seriously.
Brooks does a good job at setting up the beginning of the zombie infection. The disease first emerges in China before slowly spreading around the world, both through regular air travel and human trafficking. The public was initially lulled into a false sense of security by a combination of government propaganda and predatory businessmen. By the time the existence of the zombies becomes impossible to deny the human race is already in the middle of a losing battle that ends up killing hundreds of millions and turning them into flesh-eating machines.
I like how the author pulls on different aspects of warfare and survival to describe how an apocalyptic scenario like this would unfold. For example, advanced weaponry is rendered useless as soon as the infection gets too big and those trying to survive have to make do with the most low tech of weapons like axes and shotguns. Individuals from different countries dealt with outbreaks differently; Europeans reused their ‘obsolete’ castles while the entirety of the Japanese population evacuated the entire island.
The book also references current geopolitical issues, like how Cuba’s isolationism is actually beneficial for them during the outbreak. Being an island nation with a restricted airspace means they don’t have the amount of infected US refugees bombarding them and they only had to wait it out until the outbreak subsides. Russia turned itself into a tsarist-era theocracy (this was the most lol wtf moment of the book for me) and instead of India and Pakistan lobbing nukes at each other, it was Iran and Pakistan that duked it out.
There are a lot of things going on in the story and while the reader catches only glimpses of the overall struggle, it effectively conveys the initial helplessness as well as humanity’s concerted effort to fight back at the end. Major props to the author’s research skills too. The episodes which involved the military comes off as very realistic.
The prose itself isn’t really that nuanced or subtle but I’m not a fan of regular SF and I was still vastly entertained. People who are into the genre should definitely read it.